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Professional Learning Communities
Based on
Professional Learning Communities
• Richard DuFour
– Professional Learning Communities at Work
– On Common Ground
– Learning By Doing
• Mike Schmoker
– Results Now
– Presentation to Indiana Superintendents, 2006
• Williard Daggett research
– International Center for Leadership in Education
• Robert Marzano’s McREL research
• Dougles Reeves
School Purpose
• 21st Century Skills will be learned by all, at high levels, whatever it
• We will not allow any student to fail!!
School Systems
• The current system in place is called a Bell Curve system and was
designed more than a two hundred years ago with the purpose of
Selecting and Sorting students
– Those who can learn and will go on to become business and political leaders
– Those who can’t learn and will become farmers, shop keepers, and in the
industrial age, assembly line workers.
Low Average
High Variation
School Systems
• The 21st Century requires schools to move to a J Curve system
– All students can learn, whatever it takes
High Average
Low Variation
Compelling Reason for Change
“Education reform must, at its core, make schools into places where human
creativity is cultivated and can flourish.”
“Expanding education (to be vehicles for enhancing and mobilizing the
creative capacities of all our children) is not only a matter of basic human
rights; it is an economic imperative!”
“We can no longer succeed– or even tread water—with an education system
handed down to us from the industrial age, since what we no longer need is
assembly-line workers. We need one that instead reflects and reinforces the
values, priorities, and requirements of the creative age.”
Richard Florida, author of The Flight of the Creative Class
Professional Development
• Schools rely on offering professional development to teachers, which is
most often voluntary.
• The constant dependence on misaligned professional development has
produced no improvement in levels of student achievement.
• Without significant change to the system, student learning will not
“The most promising strategy for sustained,
substantive school improvement is building the
capacity of school personnel to function as a
professional learning community.”
Milbrey McLaughlin
Stanford University
Definition of a Professional Learning Community
• “Professional” is someone with expertise in a specialized field, an
individual who has not only pursued advanced training to enter the field,
but who is also expected to remain current in its evolving knowledge
• “Learning” suggests ongoing action and perpetual curiosity. It means to
study and to practice.
• “Community” is an environment that fosters mutual cooperation,
emotional support, and personal growth as they work together to achieve
what they cannot accomplish alone.
Definition of a Professional Learning Community
• Restructuring how people work together to achieve a common aim.
Nelda Cambron-McCaabe
• School-based learning communities include:
Reflective dialogue among teachers
Deprivatization of practice
Collective focus on student learning
Shared norms and values
Kruse, Louis & Bryk
Characteristics of PLCs
• Basic structure of a PLC is composed of collaborative teams whose
members work interdependently to achieve common goals.
• The school systematically and aggressively identify and solve problems
as they emerge?
• The school creates plans of action, insists that the teachers experiment,
create a willingness to test ideas that seem to hold potential for
improving student performance.
– Experimentation is characterized by ongoing observation, monitoring,
measurement and adjustment until real progress and real results can be seen.
PLC Criteria
All teachers in your school actively support being a true professional
learning community. Every teacher in your school will actively participate
in PLC grade or interdisciplinary teams.
There will be a visible and broadly shared commitment to the defined
school purpose (mission). The mission statement must be specific and
unambiguous support by SMART goals.
There will be visible and broad commitment to a common set of beliefs
and values that support the essential purpose of the school and based on the
fundamental belief that the school will not allow any student to fail to
master the essential standards and skills.
There will be a compelling vision of the future – how you are going to
behave, treat each other and work together.
Every teacher must have a clear understanding of what the essential
learning objectives are, grade by grade, and course by course? (In other
words, you must have identified the essential "power" standards and focus
your instruction on those so that all students master those standards at high
levels and determine the standards you are not going to cover.
PLC Criteria
6 The school will be committed to teaching critical reading and persuasive
writing including language arts teachers using content-area texts or
books and content-area teachers providing instruction and practices in
reading and writing skills specific to the subject area in ways that are
relevant, important and interesting to students. (90 minutes for reading,
rereading with pen in hand, discussion) and 45 minutes for writing,
sharing, rewriting).
7 Each teacher will share lessons for specific standards that they have used
with their team members and compare to their students’ learning
8 The school will provide at least 2-4 hours each week for teacher "teams"
to plan, conduct action research, design lessons and assessments, study
results, re-plan.
9 Team meetings facilitated by a PLC Teacher Leader (needed if teachers
are competitive, combative, etc.) who is motivated, trained in facilitation
skills, and accepted as unbiased by the other teachers.
PLC Criteria
Each grade-level or interdisciplinary team will create or obtain
research-based performance assessments to be used during and
immediately after a unit is taught? (demonstration of learning specific
skills – not only multiple choice questions).
Every teacher shares the results of each student’s assessment results
with the team to determine student errors, root cause for the errors, and
potential group for interventions.
12 Teachers in each team will conduct an item analysis for each
performance or objective assessment to understand student errors.
There will be a systematic school-wide intervention process for
students who does not learn the unit of instruction just taught. The
process will be supported by all teachers, with time set aside during the
school day, and is required for struggling students. The process must
be specific to each student’s learning needs with either one-on-one or
small group instruction. Post assessments must be made after the
PLC Criteria
The principal regularly attends team meetings to observe and help
facilitate problem solving. The principal regularly attends
classrooms to determine if teachers are teaching the scheduled
standard, if agree-to lessons are being used, that students are
engaged and learning.
Procedures must be in place to monitor the execution of the
intervention plan.
Strategic tutoring which provides students with intense
individualized reading, writing, and content instruction.
Frequent, on-going common, summative assessments will be used to
validate student learning.
Report cards will be standards-based and have A, B, C and
Incomplete as grades for students. Non academic performance
items such as behavior, attendance, etc. will not detract from
academic grade.
A school that purports to be a PLC
should be able to answer the following questions
in the affirmative:
Is our response based upon INTERVENTION
• Do we provide immediate interventions for struggling students rather
than relying on remediation?
• Does the plan provide students with additional time and support for
learning as soon as they experience difficulty?
– rather than rely on remediation (summer school, retention, remedial courses)
when students fail to meet a standard at the conclusion of a course or grade
Is our response SYSTEMATIC?
• Have we created processes that ensure we respond to students according
to a school-wide plan rather than according to the discretion of individual
• Are procedures in place to monitor the execution of the plan?
• Do we provide consistent responses if asked to explain the steps our
school takes when students have difficulty learning?
Is our response TIMELY?
• How quickly are we as a school able to identify students who need
additional time and support?
• How often do we ask the question, “How do we know if our students are
not learning?”
• And how quickly are we able to respond when a student has been
Is our response DIRECTIVE?
• Do you have a systematic plan that requires students to receive the
additional assistance and devote the extra time necessary to master the
concept (instead of inviting students to seek additional help)?
• Do we insist students get extra help whenever there is evidence that those
students are having difficulty learning?
How Do We Use Assessments?
• Summative Assessments (e.g., ISTEP+, SAT, Core 40, etc.) answers the
following question:
– “Did the students learn what they were supposed to learn by the designated
– A Summative Assessment is “assessment of learning”
• Formative assessments (given on a frequent basis) answers the following
– “Are the students learning and what steps must we take to address the needs
of those who have not learned?”
– A Formative Assessment is “assessment for learning”
Student Information and Formative Assessments
• Do teachers know prior to instruction the strengths and weaknesses of
particular student?
– By unit
– By standard / skill indicator
• Are teachers proactive in identifying students who would need additional
support in order to be successful in school?
• Do teachers use criteria referenced formative assessments on a frequent
basis to ask: “Are the student learning and what steps must we take in
order to address the needs of those who have not learned?”
Standards-Based Performance Assessments
• Does you school use common performance assessments to guide
instruction and interventions?
– Aligned to the standards being taught
– Not paper and pencil multiple choice
– Students must demonstrate they understand the concept being taught
Effective School PLCs
• Does each of our teachers have a clear understanding of what the
essential learner objectives are, grade by grade, and course by course?
– Are these objectives reflected in your Power Indicators?
– Is the mastery of these objectives essential for students to be successful at
the next grade or course and essential in the “real” world after graduation?
• Do we take adequate steps to ensure that every teacher is aware of and
committed to the essential knowledge and skills students need to master?
Effective School PLCs
• Are all members in your school actively participating in the learning
community—including and especially the teacher’s association
Fundamental Purpose is Learning
• Are your teachers absolutely certain what it is we want all students to
learn—by grade level, by course, and by unit of instruction?
• How do you know when each student has acquired the intended
knowledge and skills?
• How do you respond when students experience initial difficulty so that
we can improve upon current levels of learning?
Essential Definition of a PLC
• A PLC must focus on the following:
– What happens in our school when a student does not
• This question, more than any other, demonstrates a school’s commitment
to learning for all students and its progress on the road to becoming a
What Is Your School’s Answer?
Where To Begin?
1. School purpose or essential mission
2. Collective shared vision of the future
3. Organization culture -- beliefs and values
4. Clarity about what is to be learned
5. Specific and measurable goals
6. Commitment by all teachers to collaboratively improve learning
7. Team time for working together
8. Team teaching instead of individual teaching
9. Systematic intervention process
10. Focus on critical reading and persuasive writing
11. Students are engaged – learning has real world relevance and interest
12. Celebrate small successes
13. Instructional leadership